Light Opera Works “LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU: Jules Styne’s Greatest Hits” Review

Light Opera Works Mission

Light Opera Works, Evanston, opened the 2016 concert event last night and brought the entire house to its feet with many curtain calls! This production of some of Broadway and Hollywood’s most memorable music is not to be missed.
,Light Opera Works was founded to produce musical theatre from a variety of musical traditions and is the leader in the USA of productions of historically important and theatrically delightful works of art similar in size and scope to the originals with full union orchestras. Once a year the Company trots out its finest singers in an original staged and choreographed concert of one composer (this writer has seen all of them and thoroughly enjoyed all).
This year, the works of Jules Styne have been selected to showcase. Mr. Styne wrote so many great songs in so many different styles

that is difficult to identify his musical footprints on a song, the way we often can with Cole Porter or George Gershwin. As a result we know his songs but don’t always realize they are his.

Jules Styne – a Songwriter’s Songwriter

Styne was a songwriter’s songwriter; and worked with many major lyricists: Stephen Sondheim, Frank Loesser, Comden and Green, Sammy Cahn, Yip Harburg and Bob Merrill, to name a few and was a great collaborator. The best of his work displays timelessness. In both Gypsy and Funny Girl, he evokes bygone eras of show business and this country without resorting to pastiche with music that is neither slavishly “period” nor jarringly contemporary. He had a great gift for melody and an equally great gift for matching the right melody to the right character and situation. It is the latter that turns a great songwriter into a great theatre composer.

So, identifying a Styne style is tricky business. But if at some point today you think to yourself “I’ve heard that song before,” you won’t need to wonder who wrote it.

Rudy Hogemmiller, the Artistic Director of Light Opera Works, decided to cast his net wider and successfully catch three decades of the finest Jules Styne best known Broadway and film music, and then add others not so well known but equally beautiful.   The result is toe-tapping, and yes, a tear or two at times.

Light Opera Works Assembles Talented Cast

The six artists who make up the concert company are all equally talented and can hold their own in the spot light. Making the bump up as Light Opera Works’ understudy, Kelly Britt emerges as a new star! So easy on the eyes and with a crystal clear voice, Miss Britt appears to be an old soul who understands the longing and the heartbreak of her love songs and torch songs. She hit all of her marks.

Mary Robin Roth, a perennial favorite and nationwide musical comedy star, was both comedic and endearing and I saw a new Mary Robin Roth last night. She was ever a Park Avenue lady at a cocktail party and so in control of her every movement and emotion; this is the payoff of her many years on the stage and it suits her well. Ms. Roth never overplays her moments. When she sang “Everything’s Coming up Roses” (Gypsy, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim) she brought the house down. Justin Adair, well-known to Light Opera Works’ audiences as its young leading man, thrilled the opening night goers as song stylist and brought a wide variety of styles and vocal abilities to the concert.
In Act II, his slow and sensual calypso dance across the stage “What Makes a Sunset” (Anchors Aweigh, lyrics by Sammy Cahn) elevated the temperature in the concert hall.! Mr. Adair and Ms. Britt are so well paired as the young theatrical star-crossed lovers, and are pitch perfect. Their personalities jump across the stage into the house. Emily Barnash also made her Light Opera Works debut last night.
Larry Adams and William Roberts completed the corps of men and supported the women graciously as well as romantically in the closing of the evening with “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “The Things We did Last Summer” and “Time After Time,” (lyrics by Sammy Cahn). The gentlemen were in fine form.

Special Moments

Special moments from Act One were: “Don’t Rain on My Parade” Ms. Britt, Funny Girl, lyrics Bob Merill; “I Met a Girl,” Mr. Adair, Bells are Ringing, (lyrics by Comden and Green); “I Still Get Jealous,” Ms. Roth and Mr. Adams, “High Button Shoes”, (lyrics by Sammy Cahn). Act Two offered up a combination of lesser known audiences of today and included torch songs, ballads love songs ,and some song that were both naughty and nice. Highlights were the Act Two opening with the entire Company performing “Neverland” from Peter Pan (lyrics by Comden and Green) -and then morphed into “The Christmas Waltz” and: “Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” (lyrics by Sammy Cahn). Ms. Britt melted hearts with “It’s Magic,” Romance on the High Seas (lyrics by Sammy Cahn) and Mr. Adair’s, “A Ride on a Rainbow,” Ruggles of Red Gap, (lyrics by Leo Robin). The successful evening concluded with the Company’s rendition of “Make Someone Happy,” Do Re Mi, (lyrics by Comden and Green).

Linda Madonia is Musical Director and worked long and hard with bringing songs on sheet music to life with the six different artists all singing at once. Founded to produce musical theatre from a variety of musical traditions and is the leader in the USA of productions of historically important and theatrically delightful works of art similar in size and scope to the originals with full union orchestras.

Not to be missed! Highly Recommended.

When:

Now through Sunday, October 16

 

Where:

Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL.

 

Tickets:

$30+.

Phone (847) 920-5360 or online at: www.LightOperaWorks.com.  

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